A Reformation Day Tribute: Martin Luther and the Righteousness of God

Today is Reformation Day! It is a day theat commemorates the beginnings of the protestant reformation as a German monk named Martin Luther intended to start a theological debate as he nailed his 95-Thesis on the door of the church.  We are greatly indebted to men like Martin Luther and the other reformers who began to rediscover a the light of the true Gospel that had been shrouded within medieval scholasticism.  The key doctrine that Luther rediscovered was the doctrine of Justification by faith. As Luther began to study the Bible, particularly Romans he was greatly disturbed by one particular phrase, "The Righteousness of God".  By divine Grace this phrase began to become the sweetest of all phrases as he began to learn that we received the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ.  All of this is by the grace of God.  I'll let Luther himself describe this discovery later in his life,

I had certainly wanted to understand Paul in his letter to the Romans. But what prevented me from doing so was not so much cold feet as that one phrase in the first chapter: "The righteousness of God," which I had been taught to understand as the righteousness by which God is righteous, and punish unrighteous sinners....

As last, as I meditated day and night on the relation of the words "the righteousness of God is revealed in it, as it is written, the righteous person shall live by faith" I began to understand that t"righteousness of God" as that by which the righteous person lives by the gift of God (faith); and this sentence, "the righteousness of God is revealed," to refer to a passive righteousness, by which the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "the righteous person lives by faith." this immediately made me feel as though I had been born again, and as though I had entered through open gates into paradise itself. From that moment, I saw the whole face of Scripture in a new light...And now, where I had once hated the phrase, "the righteousness of God," I began tool and extol it as the sweetest of phrases, so that this passage in Paul became the very gate of paradise to me.

This beautiful doctrine, so central to the Gospel, is something we protestants tend to take for granted, but on this reformation day may we praise the Lord for showing to a German monk the glorious truth that sinners are justified and given the righteousness of God through Jesus Christ.  Happy Reformation day!

Pastoral Lessons from the Life of Martin Luther

128756_imagno Martin Luther was a a German Monk whom God used to start the Reformation.  Martin Luther is remembered for many things such as his famous 95 thesis published on October 31, 1517 that went viral.  He is remembered for translating the New Testament into German, the language of his people.  However, one of the most dramatic events in Luther's life was the Diet of Worms.  It was at this meeting that Luther was asked by the Catholic Church leaders to recant all his beliefs such as the justification by faith alone.  It is here that Luther faced with excommunication and possible execution as a heretic, he would have to make his choice.  Luther asked for a night to think about whether he would recant or stand firm on his beliefs.  The turmoil in Luther's soul was fierce that night, and when he arrived the next morning his mind was made up.  Here is what the german monk said:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason- for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves - I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound.  God help me. Amen.

For those who prefer the movie version of this historic scene you can watch the clip from the 2003 movie Luther. (In the movie version they skip the night he takes to dwell on it)


What lessons can Pastors today learn from the life of Martin Luther?  Well there are more than can be written in this blog post, but let me suggest to you one primary one.

Just like Martin Luther, pastors today must unapologetically stand on the Word of God for all things regarding faith and practice.  There is a temptation for ministers today to let tradition or culture dictate how the church must be.  Pastors must boldly stand on the Word of God, even in the face of incredible opposition.

The Bible will continue to be more and more controversial as our western culture continues to secularize.  Soon, and to some extent even now, faithful pastors will be marginalized for their commitment to the truth of the Scriptures.  Sooner than we think we too must make our stand.  When that time comes we, just as Luther, must make our conscience captive to the Word of God.  We must stand firm on the sufficiency of Scripture and we must do so unapologetically.  God help us.  Amen.